Minister of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce, Dr. David Estwick
Plans are afoot to revamp the existing Consumers Guarantee Act to give the Public Counsel more power. This was revealed today by Minister of Economic Affairs and Empowerment, Innovation, Trade, Industry and Commerce, Dr. David Estwick, following a tour of the Offices of the Public Counsel and the Supervisor of Insolvency in the Warrens Office Complex, St. Michael.
Stressing that some members of the public were not aware of the role and functions of the Public Counsel, Dr. Estwick said the Consumers Guarantee Act and the Consumers’ Protection Act, had been put in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous business persons.
The Minister also hinted at a re-evaluation of the settlement claims and strengthening of the office’s human resources capacity. He said: “We are looking at re-assessing those claims in the region of $10,000 to a maximum of $30,000. This would require the relevant legislative changes in Cabinet in order to effect this.”
Dr. Estwick further pointed out that: “Once we do this, we have to increase the human resource that would include additional attorneys and research personnel.”
At present, three officers are assigned to handle the tribunal’s case load of between four to eight cases per week.
In making a case for more staff, Public Counsel, Eli Edwards, said three more officers including a Deputy Public Counsel would be needed in order to handle the growing case load.
Lamenting the lack of appreciation by the public for the work done by the Public Counsel, Mr. Edwards said “I would wish to see that with respect to tribunal matters that persons get the understanding that the tribunal was not just there as a front. For example, we have cases where persons were given a time limit to settle the matter. To date, they have not complied with the tribunal’s ruling.”
He further pointed out that any “person who disobeyed an order of the tribunal would feel the full weight of the law”.
To correct this situation, Mr. Edwards expressed a desire to see the amendment process accelerated. “I think it is very important that the Consumers Guarantee Act be amended as soon as possible. This is necessary because the public needs to know that it takes a lot of time to go through the documents in order to come up with a decision.”